WHAT ARE SPECIAL DISTRICTS?
Special districts are very similar to counties or municipalities. In fact, they are more alike than different. Generally, Florida's laws treat them the same. The difference is their purpose. Counties and municipalities exist to provide a wide range of general-purpose governmental services. On the other hand, special districts are created to provide specialized governmental services. Special districts have limited, explicit authority - not implied authority - that is specified in its charter and / or the laws under which it operates.
Specifically, a special district . . .
- is a unit of local government (i.e., a collegial body with authority to govern public services and facilities) created for a special-purpose;
- has jurisdiction to operate within limited geographical boundary;
- is created by general law, special act, local ordinance, or by rule of the Governor and Cabinet.
- The Florida Legislature creates independent and dependent special districts by passing a special act.
- The Governor and Cabinet (when meeting as the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission) create independent community development districts with a size of 2,500 acres or more and regional water supply authorities by rule (Florida Administrative Code) pursuant to Chapter 120, Florida Statutes.
- Municipalities and counties create special districts by passing a local ordinance.
- General law authority creates certain types of special districts and allows counties and municipalities to declare a need to use them by passing a resolution. In addition, other general law authority authorizes counties and municipalities to establish special districts.